Think of the Cinque Terre and your mind will most likely imagine colourful villages and beautiful fishing harbours. But among these bucolic towns, you’ll find both sultry swathes of sand and craggy coves where you can dive into the deep blue.
From fancy lidos at the most Instagrammable spots on the Italian Riviera, to low-key hidden harbours – the best Cinque Terre beaches aren’t always the most obvious, so read on to find out where to go for your summer swim.
Monterosso isn’t the most charming village in the Cinque Terre, but it more than makes up for any deficit with its stunning beaches. The main, expansive stretch of sand is where the masses congregate, but there are places to seek out solitude if you choose your Monterosso beach wisely.
Monterosso Fegina Beach
The best Cinque Terre beach is undoubtedly Monterosso’s Fegina beach. This is the largest beach in the area, and where most people start their journey into the remaining 4 villages. As soon as you depart the train station, you’ll see Fegina in front of you.
There are several paid areas on the beach (where for around 25 euro you can rent two sunbeds and a parasol for the day), and a small free area (directly in front of the train station entrance). Both free and paid areas get very busy in the warmer months, so don’t expect too much room to move around.
It pays to arrive early, or book ahead if you want to reserve a spot at the lido. This is especially true for the most popular area, Scoglio di Monterosso. This is the part of the beach, to the east, with the craggy rock jutting into the sea and the iconic orange & green parasols.
No matter which area of the beach you settle into, you’ll appreciate the proximity to the range of beach bars, bakeries, and shops, for when you feel a little peckish between swims.
Monterosso Al Mare / Il Gigante Beach
To the right of Fegina beach, with La Casa del Gigante and the sculpture of Neptune (currently undergoing restoration work) on one side, and the main parking lot on the other, lies the family-friendly beach of Il Gigante. Here you’ll find both paid and free areas again, but this time the free area is much larger than at the main beach, and a fair bit quieter.
The safe swimming zone is split in two, with an access way for small boats to come and go in between. The sand here is a little more gravelly, but it very gently slopes into the sea, creating a shallow area that’s great for young children.
Behind this beach you have a casual seafood restaurant and some little changing huts.
Monterosso Old Town Beach / Tragagia
Monterosso’s second-largest beach is situated in front of the old town. To get there, you’ll need to walk left (if facing the sea) along the main beachfront promenade, through the tunnel, and around the headland. It’s not far, about 5-10 minutes walk from the train station.
Here you’ll find a pretty beach with large free bathing areas, as well as a central lido, making it an excellent alternative to the busyness of the main beach.
The beach here is sandy (although not quite as fine as the main beach), and the sea that same telltale turquoise, and mostly devoid of rocks. If I was travelling to Cinque Terre with kids, this is the beach I’d head straight for!
There are plenty of eateries nearby, and you have the beautiful streets of the old town within a minutes’ walk of the sand. You can also hire boats and kayaks from here to explore further afield. I honestly don’t know why this beach isn’t more popular…
Other Monterosso Swimming Areas
If you’re looking for a little more peace than the main Monterosso beaches can provide, walk down to Il Gigante beach and then keep following the small road that goes up behind the large stone building on your left. This will lead to a walkway that takes you behind the sailing school and pops out at a stretch of wild coastline.
There’s one main beach where the sea is calm, and the sand is dark and coarse. Follow the coast around the bend and you’ll find many more little nooks offering complete tranquility.
Vernazza is home to one of the most photographed beaches in Cinque Terre (after Monterosso). The main port beach is sandy and quintessentially Italian, backed by the colourful houses of the village square. While the other beach is more rustic and rocky.
Vernazza Port Beach
Unmistakable and easy to find, the harbour beach at Vernazza is small but perfectly formed. This is the place to go if you’re after sand, calm water and convenience. I.e. great if you have little ones with you.
The rocks alongside the Santa Margherita di Antiochia Church also make a popular spot to sunbathe and swim from.
There’s a cordoned-off area that’s safe for swimmers away from the boats, but it’s not a large area – just enough to coll off and take a dip.
Do note that this beach loses the sun mid/late afternoon in summer.
Alternatively, if the main beach is a little busy, you can walk up to the end of the marina where you’ll find people draped over the rocks, and jumping into the open sea. There’s also a ladder at the end of the pier if jumping isn’t your jam.
I first caught a glimpse of Vernazza’s other beach from the top of the Doria Castle, but it wasn’t until I was wandering through the village later that I realised the access was fairly easy.
Walking down Via Visconti towards the port, you’ll see an alleyway with a cave at the end on your left. Venture through the cave and you’ll pop out onto a rocky, wild swimming area.
This isn’t a beautiful beach, and it’s not so easy for sunbathing or swimming due to the rocks. It also gets crowded, and unfortunately, wasn’t the cleanest beach I encountered either. But visit on a sunny day in the off-season and it could be a pleasant spot to soak up a few rays while taking in the view.
The Cinque Terre village of Corniglia doesn’t tumble down into the sea like the other 4 villages, but that doesn’t mean it’s not home to some incredible swimming spots also! Italians, in particular, are well aware you don’t need sand to swim or sunbathe, and so any area that’s prime for throwing down your towel and slipping into the sparkling sea is prime for the taking.
Central Corniglia Beach/Swimming Area
The best way to reach the sea for a quick dip if you’re already in Corniglia Village is to walk to the edge of the village that’s framed by vines and find the steep zigzag staircase that leads down to the sea. There’s no beach here to speak of, but the small bay is sheltered and perfect for swimming in Cinque Terre.
To the north of Corniglia, on the way to Vernazza, you may be tempted, as I was as I studied Google Maps, by the strip of sand labelled Spiaggia di Guvano.
Unfortunately, as with many hidden gems, this beach will remain elusive to many, including myself, as access is difficult and the trail hard to find. If you do tackle the steep hike and rope climb to get there, beware that you’re at risk of landslides and falling rocks.
There are two main bathing and swimming areas in Manarola, but neither are beaches in the traditional sense of the word. There’s the main harbour where everyone goes, and then there’s the ‘back beach’ which is much quieter and excellent for snorkelling.
The main marina in Manarola is famous for its golden hour shots, and restaurants with a view. But it’s also a beautiful place to swim – if you can find a free spot to shake out your towel!
The swimming area is separated from where the boats come and go, and there’s a ladder leading into the sea, for those who prefer not having to jump off the rocks into the unknown!
Note that the sea can get a little choppy here due to the boat activity, but there are sheltered swimming areas as well, behind the rocky ledge.
Back Manarola Beach
From the village, there are signposts leading to the main lookout/photo spot in Manarola. From here, you can follow the trail heading around to the right (away from the village) to find another small harbour with a dedicated swimming area.
This space was far less busy when I visited Cinque Terre, with just a handful of people swimming and snorkeling around the rocks. A good option if you’re after a bit more space.
When you arrive in Riomaggiore, you’ll no doubt find your way down to the picturesque harbour at the bottom of the village. This is a busy port with boats coming & going, and swimming is forbidden. However, it’s an excellent place to watch the sunset!
Walk alongside the harbour, and around the corner you’ll find plenty of spots to sunbathe, or keep going around the path to find Riomaggiore Beach.
A secluded, sheltered, rocky beach – Riomaggiore is set away from the village but within a few minutes’ walk of the main street.
It’s not the most comfortable place to sunbathe, due to the unforgiving pebbles, but it makes a beautiful, wild place to swim. Just take some lightweight water shoes with you, if you’re not used to rocky beaches!
Other Beautiful Beaches near Cinque Terre
If you’re not staying right in the Cinque Terre, it may be best to save beach days for another time, as there are some lovely beaches within a quick drive of the Cinque Terre that are much more easily accessible. Here are some of our favourites.
Bay of Poets, Portovenere
The village of Portovenere sits in the Bay of Poets, near La Spezia. It’s not accessible on the train line and therefore gets missed by many who make a beeline for the Cinque Terre instead. But the locals know about this bucolic spot.
It’s not only a charming place to discover, but it’s also home to many of the prettiest beaches in Liguria. Choose one of the sandy shores along the coastline, or walk along the length of the town until you reach Lord Byron’s Grotto.
This idyllic swimming area isn’t a beach as such, but the dramatic and rugged environment make it a favourite among those in the know – including Lord Byron himself back in the day…
Another option from Portovenere is to take the ferry to Palmaria Island and relax on one of the main beaches, or take a walk to the secluded Pozzale Beach on the other side.
The next town up from Monterosso is Levanto. A typical Italian Riviera town, the beaches here are backed by colourful villas and grandiose gardens.
The long main town beach is reminiscent of Monterosso beach, with several paid bathing areas. But the free areas are larger and more plentiful too, making it the best beach near Cinque Terre for families. The sea is calm and pleasant, and the bay is sheltered.
You can rent boats, kayaks, and paddle boats from Levanto as well as take a ferry into the Cinque Terre.
Those wanting a more intimate beach can walk along to the western edge, and over the rocky headland where you’ll find a perfect, private little cove to bathe with the locals.
Key Things to Remember when visiting the best beaches in Cinque Terre
- Many of the Cinque Terre beaches are rocks and pebbles instead of sand, so water shoes make getting in and out of the water a more enjoyable experience.
- There is very little shade on any of the beaches, except if you hire a parasol or head to Vernazza in the late afternoon (when half the beach is shaded). Therefore, remember to bring a hat and sunscreen at least, or your own parasol if staying local.
- You can generally find food & drinks nearby all of these beaches, with the exception of Corniglia (where you’ll have to climb back up the steep path), or the wild Guvano beach. But it’s always wise to have a reusable water bottle with you anyway. There are fountains where you can fill it up for free in the villages.
- Lidos are generally only available in the peak months of June – September, after that you’ll find more free space on the sand at Monterosso.